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Expect Syracuse to drastically improve, even if this schedule makes it hard to notice

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The Orange have the returning production and the new offense to scare a lot of good teams this year. The problem: they play a lot of good teams this year. This is Bill C's daily preview series, working its way through every 2016 team.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. How quickly can you take flight?

Over the final seven games of 2012, Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib's passer rating soared to 150.2. He was suddenly completing intermediate passes all over the field, throwing two touchdowns per game, and making almost no mistakes. After averaging 22.8 points per game through six contests, Doug Marrone's Orange averaged 36.1.

This was the prototypical "...and then suddenly, the light bulb went on" story that we see just enough to convince us it's possible. It was also just about the only time in the last decade-plus that Syracuse has been good at moving the football. In 11 years of S&P+ data, 2012 is the only time the Orange have ranked in the Off. S&P+ top 50 (32nd), and it was based on half a season of quality.

You can understand the draw of Dino Babers, then. Yards are good. Points are good. Babers ends up with a lot of them.

Marrone sold high following that 2012 season, ending up as head coach of the Buffalo Bills. He was replaced by defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, who had a good defense for two of his three years in charge but couldn't get things fired out on the other side.

A former Hawaii running back, Babers held offensive assistant jobs in basically every time zone over 30 years and spent four years observing Art Briles' offense up close. He finally got a head coaching gig in 2012 at Eastern Illinois, and he soared. Eastern Illinois had gone 4-17-1 over the previous two seasons, then went 7-5 and 12-2. The Panthers scored at least 37 points six times in his first year and 13 in his second.

Babers moved on to Bowling Green, lost his starting quarterback immediately, and scuffled through a slightly lucky 8-6 campaign. But with the pieces in place in 2015, his Falcons went 10-4, ranked 11th in Off. S&P+, threw for 5,135 yards, and scored nearly 600 points.

Give Babers a little time, and he's going to move the football. A lot. Northern New York is not the best place to find receiving talent, but he'll find what he needs. And under the right circumstances, he might even make some stops, too. He found a good defensive coordinator in Brian Ward last year at BGSU -- the Falcons improved from 106th in Def. S&P+ to 55th -- and took Ward with him.

Babers is making up for lost time. He didn't get his first head coaching job until he was 50, and now he's on his third gig in five years. He's won 37 games, and he hasn't yet had a roster of his own making.

Of all this offseason's hires, this feels like one of the safest. Babers will score points, and he will probably get Syracuse back into bowl conversation after a two-year drought.

There are drawbacks. We don't know how long he will stay if he succeeds. (That the AD who hired him just left doesn't dissuade those thoughts.) And if he does stay for a while, we don't actually know how he might do at program maintenance.

But forget all of that. He's on the job in 2016, and he's probably going to do well. In terms of returning production, he inherits one of the most experienced rosters in FBS. The schedule is rugged -- eight opponents projected 41st or better in S&P+, three projected 11th or better -- and that will probably tamp down the year's upside.

But Syracuse is going to be a tougher out, and for better or sometimes worse, the Carrier Dome scoreboard operator will be busier than in years.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 6-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 85 | Final S&P+ Rk: 71
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
4-Sep Rhode Island N/A 47-0 W 94% 100% +31.4
12-Sep Wake Forest 92 30-17 W 60% 75% +7.6 +8.0
19-Sep Central Michigan 67 30-27 W 86% 95% -4.1 -4.0
26-Sep LSU 10 24-34 L 40% 10% +7.4 +15.0
10-Oct at South Florida 44 24-45 L 16% 0% -31.0 -18.5
17-Oct at Virginia 78 38-44 L 44% 40% -2.8 +1.0
24-Oct Pittsburgh 46 20-23 L 62% 56% +1.7 +4.0
31-Oct at Florida State 12 21-45 L 24% 0% -3.8 -3.5
7-Nov at Louisville 39 17-41 L 11% 0% -9.5 -9.5
14-Nov Clemson 2 27-37 L 61% 24% +19.0 +18.0
21-Nov at NC State 49 29-42 L 58% 39% +5.0 +4.0
28-Nov Boston College 70 20-17 W 41% 17% +3.5 +6.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 28.8 67 28.6 69
Points Per Game 27.3 77 31.0 90

2. Fall, rally, fall, rally

It looked as if Shafer might steer out of his skid in 2015. Despite youth and turnover at quarterback, Syracuse began by scoring at least 30 points in three straight games and giving a strong accounting in a 34-24 loss to LSU.

From that point, the season was defined by stumbles, slight rebounds, and losses.

  • Syracuse's first 4 games:
    Record: 3-1 | Average percentile performance: 70% (~top 40) | Yards per play: SU 5.7, Opp 5.4 (+0.3)
  • Syracuse's last 8 games:
    Record: 1-7 | Average percentile performance: 40% (~top 75) | Yards per play: Opp 6.6, SU 4.8 (-1.8)

Close losses to Pitt and Clemson were offset by dismal games against USF and Louisville. An interesting team at home, the Orange were mostly nightmarish on the road.

Shafer was fired after a 42-29 loss to NC State, the team's eighth in a row. The Orange rallied to stave off Boston College in the season finale, then it was time for the new generation.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.28 56 IsoPPP+ 99.9 68
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.2% 103 Succ. Rt. + 108.0 34
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.5 61 Def. FP+ 29.9 74
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.6 51 Redzone S&P+ 104.0 58
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.1 ACTUAL 18 +0.9
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 119 64 34 68
RUSHING 77 41 23 48
PASSING 117 78 64 75
Standard Downs 33 27 32
Passing Downs 111 80 115
Q1 Rk 56 1st Down Rk 73
Q2 Rk 78 2nd Down Rk 7
Q3 Rk 52 3rd Down Rk 125
Q4 Rk 78

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Eric Dungey 6'3, 212 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8434 105 176 1298 11 5 59.7% 10 5.4% 6.4
Zack Mahoney 6'2, 201 Jr. NR NR 54 117 535 7 2 46.2% 7 5.6% 4.0
Austin Wilson 6'3, 225 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7984 4 8 49 1 1 50.0%
Rex Culpepper 6'2, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8469

3. 176 passes by the end of September

Last year, Syracuse was a run-first, run-second team, running more than two-thirds of the time on standard downs and more than the national average on passing downs. The Orange operated at one of the country's slowest tempos.

Granted, the Orange were in the process of spreading things out; this was a run-first offense, but there weren't 38 fullbacks on the roster. Still, the change will be stark.

Eric Dungey was the first-string quarterback at the end of spring practice, just as he was the first-stringer for much of last season. He was one of 15 true freshmen to play for the Orange last year, and his potential was obvious. Three games into the season, he had completed 21 of 36 passes for 428 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions. Against Virginia, he completed 16 of 22 with two scores and no picks. He also kept his sack rate down reasonably well for a mobile quarterback and averaged 5.7 yards per non-sack carry.

Dungey showed strong efficiency potential but missed the last three games with a head injury. His replacement, Zack Mahoney, was equally decent running the ball but was a bit of a mess passing. He threw only two interceptions, but not many of his passes landed in HIS players' hands either. Dungey's the hope.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Jordan Fredericks RB 5'10, 215 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8281 110 615 4 5.6 7.8 33.6% 1 0
Eric Dungey QB 6'3, 212 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8434 81 462 5 5.7 5.1 49.4% 8 5
George Morris RB 6'0, 187 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8577 66 326 0 4.9 4.8 42.4% 1 0
Ervin Philips RB/IR 5'11, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8211 41 234 3 5.7 4.7 48.8% 1 1
Devante McFarlane RB 35 102 0 2.9 1.7 28.6% 0 0
Zack Mahoney QB 6'2, 201 Jr. NR NR 34 187 2 5.5 5.7 47.1% 4 2
Dontae Strickland RB 5'11, 196 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8731 21 81 1 3.9 5.4 33.3% 0 0
Jacob Hill WR 5'6, 170 So. NR NR 18 68 0 3.8 2.7 33.3% 0 0
Brisly Estime WR 5'9, 182 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8153 6 17 0 2.8 3.2 33.3% 1 0
Ben Lewis HB 5 12 0 2.4 10.9 20.0% 0 0
Moe Neal RB 5'10, 167 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8615
Jo-El Shaw RB 6'1, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8375
Sean Riley RB 5'9, 165 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8356







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Steve Ishmael WR 6'2, 202 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8578 61 39 570 63.9% 21.3% 9.3 57.4% 59.0% 1.45
Ervin Philips IR 5'11, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8211 50 29 286 58.0% 17.4% 5.7 54.0% 36.0% 1.50
Brisly Estime IR 5'9, 182 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8153 41 17 293 41.5% 14.3% 7.1 63.4% 34.1% 1.97
Josh Parris TE 6'4, 242 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8323 32 21 140 65.6% 11.1% 4.4 31.3% 31.2% 1.28
Ben Lewis TE
28 18 208 64.3% 9.8% 7.4 57.1% 50.0% 1.31
Dontae Strickland RB 5'11, 196 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8731 19 9 137 47.4% 6.6% 7.2 52.6% 36.8% 2.03
Alvin Cornelius WR 6'1, 187 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8111 14 6 56 42.9% 4.9% 4.0 42.9% 28.6% 1.35
Jordan Fredericks RB 5'10, 215 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8281 9 6 55 66.7% 3.1% 6.1 88.9% 44.4% 1.39
Kendall Moore TE 6'5, 241 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8503 6 3 39 50.0% 2.1% 6.5 50.0% 33.3% 1.75
Devante McFarlane RB
6 2 27 33.3% 2.1% 4.5 50.0% 16.7% 2.82
George Morris RB 6'0, 187 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8577 6 5 17 83.3% 2.1% 2.8 16.7% 33.3% 0.71
Sean Avant IR 5'10, 207 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8099 4 4 37 100.0% 1.4% 9.3 75.0% 100.0% 0.76
Jamal Custis WR 6'5, 226 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8473 4 1 7 25.0% 1.4% 1.8 50.0% 25.0% 0.88
Jacob Hill IR 5'6, 170 So. NR NR 2 0 0 0.0% 0.7% 0.0 100.0% 0.0% 0.00
Clay Austin IR 5'9, 164 Jr. NR NR
Adly Enoicy WR 6'5, 222 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8537
Tyrone Perkins WR 6'0, 198 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8452
Tyler Gilfus WR 6'1, 195 Fr. NR NR

4. Draft Steve Ishmael for your College Fantasy Football team

Syracuse ran a safe system last season, built around protecting young QBs who are better at running than throwing. It probably isn't a surprise that the Orange were good on standard downs (33rd), when both run and play-action are possible, and abysmal on passing downs (111th), when you're forced to become one-dimensional. Syracuse ranked 125th in the country on third downs, combining passing-downs struggles with iffy short-yardage play.

Short-yardage issues might not improve, but I doubt passing downs are as much of an issue, as long as Dungey is healthy. This system is pretty friendly to passing-downs conversions, and Syracuse returns eight of last year's top nine receivers. That's a pretty healthy combination.

Steve Ishmael had to feel he won the lottery when Babers' hire was announced. He averaged 10.4 yards per target as the No. 3 option in the 2014 offense, then a still-strong 9.3 per target as Syracuse's top option last year. He has caught 66 passes for 985 yards and 10 touchdowns in two solid years. If healthy, he will almost certainly top those marks in 2016.

Syracuse's success could be dictated by how many OTHER options emerge. From a size-and-speed perspective, Ervin Phillips and Brisly Estime seem like custom-made inside receivers, and sophomore running back Dontae Strickland led running backs in targets, catches, and yards. (He had a 62-yard reception against FSU.) Strickland finished the spring as the No. 1 running back and could be used in a lot of different ways.

Still, Phillips and Estime combined to average just 6.4 yards per target with a 35 percent success rate, and while Strickland was exciting in the passing game, he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. This trio could be the primary efficiency options in this system, and they weren't efficient last year.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 107.5 2.66 2.96 40.2% 63.6% 23.1% 107.6 4.3% 9.8%
Rank 38 104 90 48 80 107 49 52 104
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Rob Trudo RG 11 44
Ivan Foy LT 12 35
Nick Robinson LG 12 33
Omari Palmer RG 6'3, 321 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7726 12 21
Jason Emerich C 6'3, 284 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8487 10 12
Seamus Shanley RG 3 3
Michael Lasker LT 6'5, 318 Sr. NR NR 0 1
Cody Conway LT 6'6, 295 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8407 0 0
Aaron Roberts LG 6'4, 300 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8153 0 0
Taylor Hindy C 6'4, 318 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 0 0
Jamar McGloster RT 6'7, 330 Jr. NR NR 0 0
Jon Burton OT 6'8, 319 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7926 0 0
Andrejas Duerig LG 6'3, 320 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8377

Samuel Clausman LG 6'3, 324 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8226

Evan Adams RT 6'6, 334 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8123

Colin Byrne RG 6'5, 321 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8032

Sam Heckel OL 6'5, 265 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8534

Michael Clark OL 6'7, 277 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8534

5. Starting over up front

Now's probably not the worst time to be starting over on the offensive line. The line was a strength for the last couple of years and must now replace four players who combined for 38 of last year's 60 starts and 115 career starts.

But this system diminishes the offensive line's job to a certain degree. Passes come out of the QB's hand quickly, minimizing sack rates, and the combination of large splits and a defense distracted by the passing game should open up some holes for the ground game unless the line is simply dreadful. It probably won't be.

Three seniors with starting experience return, and the combination of guard Omari Palmer and center Jason Emerich could form a decent team in short-yardage situations.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.23 56 IsoPPP+ 92.7 92
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.8% 114 Succ. Rt. + 85.8 118
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.9 29 Off. FP+ 31.4 33
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.5 77 Redzone S&P+ 98.7 77
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 18.6 ACTUAL 23.0 +4.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 99 100 118 92
RUSHING 78 90 114 71
PASSING 101 111 111 105
Standard Downs 109 125 86
Passing Downs 95 72 99
Q1 Rk 105 1st Down Rk 111
Q2 Rk 87 2nd Down Rk 93
Q3 Rk 77 3rd Down Rk 95
Q4 Rk 112

6. Passive vs. too passive

The only things that kept Syracuse's overall Def. S&P+ rating from completely falling apart were field position and redzone performance. As field position is partially a product of special teams (I'm still working on the cleanest ways to separate special teams from offense and defense in the unit ratings), you could say that the defense itself probably should have ranked lower than 69th. And 69th was already the 'Cuse's worst Def. S&P+ ranking since Greg Robinson's last year in charge (2009).

The main problem was that the play-makers were gone. The Orange had to replace four of their top five linemen from 2014 and three of five linebackers, and despite the work of end Ron Thompson, linebacker Zaire Franklin, and freshman tackle Chris Slayton, the new front just didn't create enough disruption, particularly in the pass rush. Meanwhile, the secondary had to replace its top four as well.

The collapse was comprehensive. Syracuse fell from 76th to 111th in Passing S&P+, and from 26th all the way to 90th in Rushing S&P+. On standard downs, the Orange fell from 30th to 109th. Shafer had previously been able to balance between havoc and bend-don't-break tendencies. In 2015, Syracuse bent far too much and didn't prevent big plays well enough (or make enough passing downs stops) to get away with it.

Youth explains a portion of that. The linebackers were all sophomores and juniors, the defensive backs were freshmen and sophomores, and the line was a mix of seniors and freshmen. So Brian Ward inherits more seasoned pieces.

Ward's BGSU defense overplayed pretty well -- the Falcons attacked the run on standard downs and the pass on passing downs, forcing opponents to stray from the normal script. This worked well on standard downs (BGSU was 36th in SD S&P+), but the Falcons didn't have the pass rushers to close things out on passing downs. Does Syracuse?

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 98.7 2.81 3.80 43.0% 66.7% 22.0% 86.9 4.8% 7.3%
Rank 71 53 121 117 69 40 86 73 66
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ron Thompson DE 12 32.5 4.9% 9.5 7.0 0 4 4 0
Donnie Simmons DE 12 30.0 4.6% 5.0 1.0 1 1 2 0
Chris Slayton DT 6'4, 297 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8619 12 18.0 2.7% 6.0 1.0 0 1 1 0
John Raymon DT 12 17.0 2.6% 3.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Steven Clark NT 6'2, 311 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8157 12 16.5 2.5% 1.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Luke Arciniega DE
8 15.0 2.3% 5.5 4.0 0 0 1 0
Kayton Samuels NT 6'0, 318 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7983 12 11.5 1.7% 2.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Rony Charles DE 3 4.0 0.6% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Giudice DT 6'1, 276 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8052 8 2.0 0.3% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Hernz Laguerre DE 6'1, 234 Sr. NR NR
Trey Dunkelberger DE 6'5, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8013
Jake Pickard DE 6'5, 254 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8352
Tyler Cross DT 6'2, 285 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8277
Kenneth Ruff DE 6'1, 258 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8471
Jaquwan Nelson DE 6'4, 230 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8534
Kendall Coleman DE 6'3, 235 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8189








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Zaire Franklin MLB 6'0, 229 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8550 12 70.0 10.6% 11.0 3.0 1 1 2 0
Parris Bennett WLB 6'0, 218 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8308 8 38.0 5.8% 3.5 0.0 1 0 0 0
Marqez Hodge WLB 5'11, 226 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8214 12 32.0 4.9% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Thomas SLB 6'1, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8596 12 29.5 4.5% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ted Taylor SLB 6'1, 212 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8100 12 25.0 3.8% 5.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Oliver Vigille MLB 10 4.5 0.7% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 1
Kyle Kleinberg MLB 6'0, 216 So. NR NR 12 3.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Alryk Perry WLB 6'1, 213 Jr. NR NR
Troy Henderson MLB 5'11, 218 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8407
Shyheim Cullen WLB 6'0, 206 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8048
Tim Walton LB 6'2, 224 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8349








7. The linebackers are going to have to carry some water

Syracuse returns four of last year's top five defensive tackles, and all four are sophomores. Chris Slayton proved decent in the play-making department, and both Steven Clark and Kayton Smauels fit the role of space-eating nose tackle.

At linebacker, virtually everybody's back; despite Parris Bennett missing four games, Bennett and Zaire Franklin combined for 14.5 tackles for loss. Franklin is a particularly impressive play-maker.

The problem: Even with solid tackles in front of them, the linebackers are going to have to make a ton of plays because there are no ends back from last year. At the end of spring practice, the first stringers were redshirt freshman Jack Pickard and true freshman Kenneth Ruff. The other options are career reserves Hernz Laguerre and Trey Dunkelberger and other true freshmen like Jaquwan Nelson and Kendall Coleman.

Even if this end unit turns into something presentable, it will happen in fits and starts. You probably can't expect more than three or four sacks out of either Pickard or Ruff, and you probably can't expect Syracuse to have much of a pass rush unless the blitzing is relentless and effective. The run defense should be okay, but the secondary will face quite a bit of pressure on passing downs with unharried quarterbacks.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Antwan Cordy FS 5'8, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7800 12 59.0 9.0% 12 2 2 2 1 1
Cordell Hudson CB 5'11, 175 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8145 12 38.5 5.9% 2 0 2 3 0 0
Chauncey Scissum FS 6'2, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8259 12 35.0 5.3% 0.5 0 0 1 0 0
Juwan Dowels CB 5'10, 180 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8308 12 34.5 5.2% 1.5 0 1 5 0 0
Corey Winfield CB 6'1, 191 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7988 8 28.0 4.3% 2 2 2 3 1 0
Kielan Whitner SS 6'0, 197 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793 12 28.0 4.3% 0.5 0 0 1 1 0
Julian Whigham CB 11 19.0 2.9% 0.5 0 0 3 0 0
Rodney Williams SS 5'10, 189 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7964 9 15.0 2.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wayne Morgan CB 5'11, 193 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8994 12 14.0 2.1% 0.5 0 0 2 0 0
Daivon Ellison SS 5'8, 171 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8234 8 6.0 0.9% 0 0 0 1 1 0
Eric Anthony SS 6'0, 200 Sr. NR NR 11 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Christopher Fredrick CB 5'11, 187 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8342
James Pierre S 6'2, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8558
Evan Foster S 6'2, 195 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8321
Devon Clarke S 6'3, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8321
Scoop Bradshaw S 5'11, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8304








8. The secondary will be as good as it is allowed to be

The good news is that the secondary should be solid. Safety Antwan Cordy is the closest thing to Duke's Jeremy Cash remaining in the conference now that Cash is gone -- he recorded 12 tackles for loss and four passes defensed last year. Two sophomore cornerbacks, Cordell Hudson and Juwan Dowels, should be ready to make some plays, and thanks to both injuries and youth, nine returnees got solid playing time last year. This isn't the best secondary in the ACC or anything, but it will be good enough if the front seven doesn't make its job too difficult.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Riley Dixon 65 43.7 5 28 24 80.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Ryan Norton 60 61.9 22 1 36.7%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Cole Murphy 6'3, 197 Jr. 37-37 13-15 86.7% 3-7 42.9%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Brisly Estime KR 5'9, 182 Sr. 30 22.2 0
Dontae Strickland KR 5'11, 196 So. 4 20.5 0
Brisly Estime PR 5'9, 182 Sr. 15 18.1 2
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 30
Field Goal Efficiency 67
Punt Return Success Rate 50
Kick Return Success Rate 71
Punt Success Rate 5
Kickoff Success Rate 59

9. Not the worst time in the world to lose your punter

Punter Riley Dixon was a phenomenal weapon last year, averaging nearly 44 yards per kick and allowing only 14 returns in 65 punts. That he's gone means Syracuse is minus one impressive player.

But if you're going to lose your punter, you might as well do it at a time when your offense is probably about to improve. Even if everything doesn't click for the offense, I'd be surprised if the Orange are still punting 5.5 times per game.

The rest of the special teams unit was neither great nor terrible. Cole Murphy makes most of his kicks under 40 yards, and Brisly Estime is a mighty dangerous return man, albeit one who will have quite a few 1-yard returns mixed in with an explosion or two.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
2-Sep Colgate NR 30.8 96%
9-Sep Louisville 20 -5.2 38%
17-Sep South Florida 41 2.0 55%
24-Sep at Connecticut 81 4.3 60%
1-Oct vs. Notre Dame 11 -11.0 26%
8-Oct at Wake Forest 74 1.7 54%
15-Oct Virginia Tech 32 -0.1 50%
22-Oct at Boston College 50 -2.4 44%
5-Nov at Clemson 3 -22.0 10%
12-Nov N.C. State 40 1.9 54%
19-Nov Florida State 5 -10.4 27%
26-Nov at Pittsburgh 29 -8.1 32%
Projected wins: 5.5
Five-Year F/+ Rk -2.5% (68)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 59 / 63
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 5 / 1.5
2015 TO Luck/Game +1.5
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 90% (100%, 80%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 4.6 (-0.6)

10. Experience where you need it

Weighting returning production where it seems to matter the most, Syracuse returns more of last year's production than anyone in the country not named LSU or UCF (so basically, anyone above the 31st parallel). The receiving corps and secondary are wonderfully experienced, and the quarterback has upside.

Because the likely improvement is pretty extreme with this level of returning talent, Syracuse is projected to immediately become a top-50 team under Babers.

The schedule will impact the level of growth in the win column, though. With so many top-40 teams on the docket, Syracuse is projected to win only 5.5 games, with seven games falling between 38 and 60 percent win probability (along with one likely win and four likely losses).

You can maneuver through that, but the most likely scenario is that Babers will need a year to fully weaponize the offense and figure out how to attack on defense. Expect a lot of shootouts, and expect Syracuse to win a few. But it's possible that the Orange's 2016 improvement is of the "from a bad 4-8 to a good 5-7" variety.